Not Just the Kitchen, the leading website geared to Baby-Boomer Women. For more than 15 years, we have posted articles written specifically for women who fit into this unique age bracket. Many are still working at jobs, raising children and looking after their parents. Here Baby-Boomer Women can kick back, relax and read some of the 1000 informative articles that we have sourced for them.
living in housing that is clean and well maintained
getting an education
having a steady job
What can put your mental health at risk?
Negative life circumstances can put you at risk of developing mental illness. Situations that can affect mental health include:
family conflict or violence
neglect in early childhood
having a parent with a substance abuse problem
living in inadequate or unsafe housing
Learning ways to cope with these circumstances can help your overall mental health.
How can you develop coping skills for mental health?
Focused counselling programs, classes or training teach coping skills to handle different life circumstances. These skills can help you to deal with problems or transitions that come up in life, such as:
A burglary happens every 15 seconds in the United States. Use these seven tips on how to prevent a burglary in your home.
It is now up to you, rather than your landlord to protect your home against dangers like burglars. According to Nationwide Insurance, a burglary happens every 15 seconds in the United States. Use these seven tips on how to prevent a burglary in your home.
Invest in a security system – A good security system is an excellent deterrent to would-be burglars. According to Nationwide Insurance, homes without security systems are two to three times more likely to be targeted by thieves than those that have them.
Beef up your exterior doors – Make sure your exterior doors are solid metal or wood. If they aren’t, replace them. Install deadbolt locks on exterior doors, and if those doors have windows close to locks, use deadbolts that require a key to open both inside and out. If you have sliding glass doors in your home, secure them. You can buy special locks that prevent them from sliding open, or simply cut a broom handle to size and insert it in the door track to secure it.
Lock all windows – Make a habit of checking all windows to be sure they’re closed and locked before leaving for the day. First-floor windows are especially important, but burglars have been known to climb a tree or a porch to access second-story windows as well.
Maintain a clear outdoor view – Keep your bushes, trees and other landscape features near doors and windows trimmed to eliminate potential
cover for a person trying to gain entry to your home. Consider using chain link fencing, rather than wood, to allow neighbors and police a clear view of your home. Install outdoor lighting, particularly around entryways, to reduce a criminal’s ability to hide in the shadows while breaking into your home.
Obscure the indoor view – Curtains, shades, and blinds are essential to home security, preventing potential thieves from being able to peer in to look for valuable items in your home.
Secure your garage – This is another common entry point for thieves. Make sure to close and lock the garage door. If you have a keypad entry system, change the code frequently to prevent worn buttons from giving it away. If you typically park your car in the driveway, don’t leave an automatic garage door opener inside. If your garage has windows, cover them. If it has a pull-cord door release inside, keep that cord out of sight and/or install a security kit that prevents it from being accessed from outside.
Protect personal information – Don’t discuss vacation plans in public or on the internet. Do not label your mailbox or your home with your family name. If you’re putting boxes out for trash collection, break them down and fold labels to the inside to avoid advertising what was in them, especially if they once held high-value items.
Of course, none of these measures will provide absolute protection against burglary. They can, however, significantly reduce your risk by making it more difficult and risky for a would-be thief to break into your home. Often, that’s all it takes to send them off in search of a less challenging target.
There are also a number of other mistakes that people sometimes make as they near retirement or are in retirement.
In today’s digital world, people have the opportunity to work well past age 65. If it is possible for you to do so, even if it’s just part-time, this can go a long way toward protecting your investments as you’ll dip into them later. This helps them to go the distance.
There are also a number of other mistakes that people sometimes make as they near retirement or are in retirement. Let’s take a look at them so you can do your best not to experience them at all.
Entering Retirement with Debt
Sometimes in their 50’s, people concentrate on saving money and trying to grow their retirement accounts as much as possible before they retire. While this is good, it’s even better if you can do this at the same time that you are paying down your debts.
Experts say that one of the best things you can do to eliminate financial anxiety in retirement is to enter it debt-free. You’ll want to have a plan for the 10 years before you retire that includes paying off your debts and not accumulating new debts.
So if it’s time for a new vehicle, buy a used one that is reasonably priced instead of taking on a new car note. If you are living in a big home and your children have all now grown and moved out, consider downsizing to a smaller home to reduce your mortgage payment. Try to pay extra on your mortgage each month with the intention to have it paid off by the time you turn 65.
You can even find extra things to do in your spare time to earn money that you can then throw at your debt. It’s easy today to find part-time work driving for Uber or pet-sitting for families near you.
Stopping Your Investments
In order for your money to go the distance with you, it’s important not to be too conservative. While you certainly don’t want your investments to be in high-risk portfolios for aggressive growth, you don’t have to put everything into CDs and bonds either.
Plan to leave at least a portion of your retirement assets in stocks or mutual funds so that your money can continue to work for you.
Taking Social Security Too Early
Here in America, you can begin taking your Social Security income benefits as early as age 62. However, your full retirement age usually isn’t until you reach age 67. Many people decide they want to take their benefits early because they don’t know how long they’ll be around. However, life expectancies today are longer than ever before due to medical advances, and it is not uncommon for people to live well into their eighties or even nineties these days.
When you take your Social Security income benefits at age 62, your monthly check will be only 70% of what it would be if you waited until your full retirement age.
Also, if you were able to delay taking these benefits, you could increase your check by as much as 124%. Therefore, if you plan to continue working, delay taking those income benefits as long as you can and your later retirement years will be much easier on you.
Overlooking Health Costs
Many people think about retirement expenses like rent, food, and utilities. However, they often overlook the costs of healthcare in retirement. While you will have Medicare as early as age 65, Medicare isn’t free, and it doesn’t cover all of your healthcare expenses.
Part A benefits are $0 for most people at 65 because they have paid for these hospital benefits via tax deductions throughout their years of work. Part B, though, has monthly premiums, and this part of Medicare is very important because it covers all of your outpatient costs. It includes things like doctor visits, emergency care, lab work, and diagnostic exams as well as higher ticket items like chemotherapy.
Part B will cost you at least $135.50 in 2019 and about 5% of beneficiaries pay quite a bit more due to higher incomes. This also goes up every year to keep up with inflation.
As you use your Medicare benefits, you will also have to pay deductibles and copayments as you do now. These can be steep for people living on fixed incomes, so many people feel the need to buy Medicare supplement coverage.
Lastly, Medicare doesn’t cover long-term care needs and about half of Social Security beneficiaries will eventually have some sort of long-term care expenses. It’s important to plan for how you will pay for those expenses if you end up needing to live in assisted living or a nursing home someday.
All of these things cost money, so probably the number one mistake is simply not having a plan. Sit down with a financial planner today who can help you estimate the actual amount of monthly income you will need when you finally retire. Proper planning can make all the difference.
If your landlord is breaking the law, an attorney who specializes in landlord-tenant law may be able to help you terminate your lease early without losing your security deposit.
As renters, we’re all used to getting our backgrounds investigated, whether through credit checks or letters of recommendation. They help protect landlords from taking on a tenant with a history of bad behavior.But who’s protecting the renters? Most of us have never considered doing a background check on a prospective landlord before signing a lease, and that’s a mistake that can cause headaches and cost time and money.Here’s how to quickly assess a landlord’s reputation.
Search Public Records
Googling a landlord’s name is a good starting point. Once you’ve done that, dig deeper to find out whether the person has a bad track record. One way to do this is by searching public records to see if he or she has been found guilty of building code violations or has had small claims court settlements with prior tenants. Generally, you can visit your county clerk office’s website to run this search.Pro tip: If a landlord owns more than one rental property, pull public records for those addresses as well.
Talk to Neighbors
While you’re touring a potential new place, knock on doors and talk to neighbors to find out more about the property owner. Ask current residents whether they’ve interacted with the property owner personally. If so, what was their impression? Did the landlord maintain the property well? Have they had any issues? Their responses can speak volumes about whether management takes care of their residents — or not.
Check for Official Complaints
The Better Business Bureau (BBB), a nonprofit organization that allows consumers to submit complaints about businesses, is another good resource for vetting landlords. The organization assigns A to F ratings for businesses, so look up your landlord on the bureau’s website, BBB.org. If there are multiple complaints, look for patterns — for example, does the landlord have a history of not returning security deposits?
Contact the Homeowner’s Association
If a rental unit is in a homeowner’s association (HOA) or condo association, contact a representative from the board to find out whether the property owner is in good standing — i.e., is not behind on their monthly dues, or is not in violation of community bylaws.
Inspect the Property
Play detective when inspecting a rental property for damage. If the place is in poor condition, that may indicate the landlord is lousy at making repairs. Normal wear and tear, like scratch marks on walls, is common when a tenant moves out. What you’re really looking for are major defects, like mold, water damage, broken windows or other serious flaws. There’s no guarantee those will be fixed before your move-in date.
Ask the Right Questions
Posing a few smart questions to a prospective landlord can help you spot potential warning signs. Here are four worth asking:
What’s included in the rent? A trustworthy landlord will be fully transparent when explaining what the rent includes, such as utilities, move-in fees and parking costs.
How do you make repairs? This is a crucial question; after all, you want a landlord who responds quickly when there’s a problem at your place, such as plumbing or electrical issue. You’ll also want to find out who will be making the repairs. Does the landlord fix things himself, or does he hire a licensed contractor or handyman?
Describe your ideal tenant. Listen closely, as this will help you determine whether you’re a good match.
How much notice will you give before entering the property? Landlords are entitled to check the property’s condition, but they must give renters advance notice. In fact, many states require landlords give tenants at least 24 hours’ notice before entering the premises.
Confirm the landlord actually owns the property through your local tax collector’s office. Doing so will allow you to verify that the landlord is legitimate — and not someone masquerading as the property owner in an effort to con renters.
A Final Note:
Tenants’ Rights Counseling Is Free. Make the mistake of leasing from a crummy landlord? Many cities and states have tenants’ rights centers that provide free legal counsel to renters. If your landlord is breaking the law, an attorney who specializes in landlord-tenant law may be able to help you terminate your lease early without losing your security deposit.
It’s important for you to understand what not to say when selling your home. Learn how to maintain your leverage and avoid scaring off buyers.
Most times when selling your home, it’s better to let your real estate agent do the talking with potential buyers. However, there may be moments when it’s just you, the buyer, and the buyer’s agent having a conversation, so it’s important for you to understand what not to say, as well. Most buyers will be looking for an edge in negotiations, and that edge can come from seeking out information that the seller’s side would rather not share. Learn how to maintain your leverage and avoid scaring off buyers, with our guide to seven things that you should never say when selling your home
Seven Things Better Left Unsaid
1. The Number of People Who Have Viewed the Home – Buyers will ask how many people have viewed the home, as a way to gauge interest when considering their own offer. Some buyers will be looking to pounce on a home with a perceived low-interest level, while others might consider a lack of showings as a red flag. Better to just skip answering the question entirely.
2. How Many Offers You Have Received – Of course, some buyers will get right to the point, and ask how many offers you have received on the home. Answering this question is a bad idea, for all of the same reasons that it’s best not to say how many people have viewed the home.
3. How Soon You Need/Want to Close – You may need to close quickly for a variety of legitimate reasons… but the buyer doesn’t need to know that’s the case. It’s hard to avoid the topic of closing once you’re deep in negotiations, but that’s a subject that your real estate agent can handle when the time is right.
4. That the Home Is in Perfect Condition – Even if you have worked hard to address every maintenance issue you can find, no home is truly in perfect condition. It may be tempting to tell the buyer that nothing at all is wrong with the home, but that can come back to bite you when it’s time for the inspection.
5. Why You Have Decided to Sell – There are so many different reasons to sell a home, and buyers will be looking for an edge by asking why you have decided to sell. Whether you’ve outgrown the home, had a change in family status, or simply want to live somewhere new, the buyer doesn’t need to hear the details from you.
6. Too Much Neighborhood Info – If a buyer wants to know about nearby attractions or restaurants, that’s one thing. If they want to know all the details about your neighbors, how many kids are in the area, or how safe you consider the neighborhood to be, that’s a different story. Sometimes, it’s better to let buyers research on their own.
7. You Aren’t Willing to Negotiate – As a seller, it is normal to want to maximize your return when selling your home. However, it’s important to avoid telling buyers that you won’t drop below X price on the home because that is a sign that you may be unwilling to negotiate – both on price and other key concerns.
By understanding what to say and what topics to avoid, you can make it easier to achieve your goals when selling your house. The right real estate agent will act as a buffer between you and potential buyers, but it’s always helpful to know exactly what not to say when your agent isn’t present.
Real estate wire transfer fraud is just one example of the many common and devastating cyber risks we face. Cyberattacks are growing and evolving at a staggering rate.
William and Nancy Skog had cherry-picked an impeccable, perfect, river-front residence in Wilmington, Illinois. Exhilarated by the thought of moving into their dream home, the Skogs could practically see their new lives—watching the tranquil riverboats cruise by and listening to the water birds sing. There was one final step needed to finalize their purchase—wire $307,000 in closing costs to their real estate attorneys. Having received an email with payment instructions sent from what looked like a legal assistant at the firm, William and Nancy wired over their entire life savings—$307,000. Their new life was about to begin. Days later, however, the couple sat across from their lawyer at the closing table and learned their payment never arrived. The Skogs immediately panicked. If their attorneys didn’t get the money, who did?
Let’s take a closer look at the details of the wire transfer scam. All $307,000of the Skogs’ hard-earned cash had vanished without a trace. Fraudsters, impersonating their real estate attorneys, had pocketed the entire wire transfer. Almost everything in the closing cost email the Skogs had received looked genuine. The email signatures appeared authentic (because the bad actor copied and pasted the real one), the file attachment had the attorney’s actual letterhead, and the details of the real estate transaction were accurate.
How could a bad actor obtain all of this information? A variety of attack methods and vectors could have been used: including compromising one or more email accounts of those involved in the transaction, pretending to be a prospective client and emailing the fi rm to obtain a response and thus an email signature, or finding the attorneys’ letterhead via an Internet search.
Bad actors use automated hacking software that scans data breach dumps for email addresses of people working in a specific industry, such as real estate. Once they collect a list of email addresses, they send phishing emails (an email-based, social engineering attack) to obtain the victim’s email account password fraudulently. Once they have the password and successfully gain access, they research and monitor real estate transactions in flux. When the timing is right, bad actors send an email to home buyers with “new” wire transfer instructions. It can be easy for victims to believe the malicious email is legitimate, since it can actually be sent from the authentic (hacked) account of one of the real parties involved.
WARNING The best method of protection is to not trust email and to be extremely cautious when receiving emails requesting money.
Despite the scam’s convincing elements, there were indicators something was wrong. The fraudulent email used unorthodox sentence structure, such as “. . . and have us set ready your closing.” Notice anything yet? But beyond suspicious grammar, what could have tipped the Skogs off to the fake email sent by the bad actor? The sender’s email address and links might have contained clues. Hovering over any links in the email could have produced red flags, like different or similar-looking URL addresses (for example, RealEstate.com versus the malicious URL RealEstate-co.com ).
Next, the circumstances themselves were reason enough to be wary. Cyberattackers and scammers target their victims in moments of heightened emotion. People are often distracted and/or overwhelmed when scared or elated. In the case of the Skogs, the adversary recognized an opportunity when the Skogs were buying their dream home—a scary and thrilling life event. It was the perfect storm of emotions to render the Skogs vulnerable and allow the scammers to steal the couple’s hard-earned life savings successfully when they least expected it. The couple’s only saving grace was their daughter, who purchased the home for them.
The Skogs’ tremendous loss to real estate wire transfer fraud is indicative of a growing epidemic. In 2016, the FBI found that $19 million in real estate transactions were “diverted or attempted to be diverted” by bad actors, and that amount increased to practically $1 billion in 2017—a 5,163 percent increase in just one year. 2 The cruelest part of real estate wire transfer fraud is the rare chance of ever recovering stolen funds. According to James Barnacle, chief of the FBI’s Money Laundering Unit, “I don’t want to set false expectations for consumers. The chance of recovery here is slim.”
Real Estate Wire Transfer FraudPrevention Steps
Now that you’ve learned the life-shattering reality of real estate wire transfer fraud, here are some essential prevention steps:
■ Before performing a wire transfer, confirm the exact closing instructions with your real estate broker, attorney, or both, in-person, over video or on the phone. (Remember to validate their phone number first.)
■ Verify all emails received are genuine. Look out for red flags indicating a phishing email attack, and be suspicious of clicking any email links or opening any file attachments. (You will learn more about phishing email attacks in Chapter 4 and Chapter 5, as well as how to protect your email in Chapter 12.)
■ Review other payment options that can potentially provide more protection than a wire transfer, like a cashier’s check.
■ Initiate a test wire transfer for $100 and confirm the intended recipient received the wire transfer.
■ Don’t use insecure Wi-Fi to access or send email communications about sensitive transactions. (See Chapter 15 for safe web browsing practices when using public Wi-Fi.)
■ Secure your email account with two-factor authentication, and use a strong and unique password for each of your accounts. (See Chapter 15 for details on protecting web access and passwords.)
■ Consider using a secure method of file transfer and storage. Use a paid version of Box.com or similar trusted cloud environment. This will allow you to transfer files securely and control which email addresses can access the files.
■ Check to see whether your financial institution has insurance available for purchase to protect you from wire transfer fraud liability. Banks are just starting to sell policies for wire transfer fraud protection up to a certain amount. Because there’s no standardized, one-size-fits-all policy, check the fine print for variations among banks.
If You’re a Victim of WireTransfer Fraud
If you’ve fallen victim to a real estate wire transfer scam, here are immediate incident response recommendations:
■ Call the bank that sent the transfer to discuss your options.
■ Alert the bank on the receiving end to discuss your options.
■ Notify local law enforcement, and file a police report.
■ Notify your local FBI field office, and file a complaint.
■ Visit the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) and file a complaint online at https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx.
Real estate wire transfer fraud is just one example of the many common and devastating cyber risks we face. Cyberattacks are growing and evolving at a staggering rate, but by continually practicing the handful of basic protection techniques you’ll soon learn, you can strengthen your cybersecurity with ease.
About the Author:
Bart McDonough is the author of Cyber Smart: Five Habits to Protect Your Family, Money, and Identity from Cyber Criminals and CEO and Founder of Agio, a hybrid managed IT and cybersecurity services provider. Prior to founding Agio, Bart worked at SAC Capital Advisors, BlueStone Capital Partners, OptiMark Technologies, Sanford Bernstein and American Express. Bart attended the University of Oklahoma and received his undergraduate degree from the University of Connecticut.
Don’t let your food defrost on the counter. Defrosting food at room temperature allows bacteria to grow, which could increase your chance of getting food poisoning.
Proper defrosting reduces your risk of food poisoning. Food poisoning occurs when you eat food that contains harmful bacteria.
Meat, poultry, fish and seafood must reach a safe internal cooking temperature to kill bacteria in the meat.
If food is not thawed properly, bacteria that may have been present on their surface before freezing can begin to multiply.
If raw meat is partly frozen when you cook it, it can lead to uneven cooking. This means certain parts of the meat may not reach the safe internal cooking temperature required to kill the bacteria.
When defrosting meat, poultry, fish and seafood, avoid cross-contamination by sanitizing your:
* Washing your hands
Some people are more at risk for food poisoning than others, including:
* Pregnant women
* Children ages 5 and under
* People with weakened immune systems
How to Safely Defrost Raw Food
Defrosting meat, including poultry, fish and seafood, can be done in:
* The refrigerator
* The microwave
* Cold water within a sealed package
Don’t let your food defrost on the counter. Defrosting food at room temperature allows bacteria to grow, which could increase your chance of getting food poisoning.
Before you defrost your frozen meat, you should check the packaging. Make sure that it’s not torn or open, to avoid juice leakage contaminating the surrounding area.
Once food has been completely defrosted, don’t re-freeze it. You can re-freeze partly defrosted food only if it still has ice crystals on its surface.
Defrosting in the Refrigerator
The safest way to defrost any food is in the refrigerator.
Place the meat in a clean container or platter that will hold any juices leaking out of the food. Place it on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to prevent accidental cross-contamination of other food.
Cook the meat as soon as it’s defrosted.
Defrost poultry 24 hours for each 2.5 kg (5 pounds) of bird. For other meat, usually 24 hours in the refrigerator should be enough to thaw it completely.
Defrosting in the Microwave
A microwave should be used only for defrosting meat that will be cooked right away.
Only use containers, lids and wraps that are clearly marked as microwave-safe. Before heating, remove the food from any packaging that’s not microwave safe, such as:
* Polystyrene trays
* Plastic wraps that touch the food
* Freezer cartons, such as cardboard boxes used for packaging
Use a clean container or platter to collect any juices that leak out of the food. This will help prevent the contamination of the microwave. Place the meat in the container and cover with a lid or plastic wrap that doesn’t touch the food. Leave a small gap for steam to escape.
Use the defrost setting on the microwave and defrost completely before cooking.
Defrosting in Water
Under running water
Defrost your food under cold tap water in a sanitized sink. Make sure that the meat is wrapped in leak-proof plastic to help prevent cross-contamination. Run cold water from the tap over the meat until it’s defrosted.
Submerged in water
You can also submerge your food in a clean container or in the sanitized kitchen sink filled with cold water. Make sure that the meat is wrapped in leak-proof plastic and completely covered by water. Change the water every 30 minutes until the meat is defrosted.
Make sure that frozen leftovers have remained properly sealed before defrosting. Defrost frozen leftovers in the refrigerator or in the microwave.
If defrosting in the microwave, remove the food from any packaging or wrapping that might not be microwave-safe.
Once leftovers have been defrosted:
* Eat them right away
* Do not re-freeze them
* Throw away any part that’s not consumed
Fulfilling our potential is core to being human. It has been a constant for centuries and across our existence.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to delve into your own story, to understand the twists and turns of your life in a way that makes you not only more successful but happier? It’s rare that any of us has time to truly reflect on what makes us who we are—and I don’t mean the kind of naval gazing or introspection that leaves us feeling miserable and questioning what life is all about. Rather, I’m talking about a positive, pragmatic, even self-indulgent exploration of what makes you you. It doesn’t matter how old you are, whether you are 20-something, looking at where you want your life to go, 40-something, working out how to create more meaning in the prime years of your career, or 60-something, about to retire and wanting to continue to live with a sense of purpose—all of us can gain from learning more about ourselves.
You are not meant for crawling, so don’t. You have wings Learn to use them, and fly.
—Mevlana Jelalu’ddin Rumi, thirteenth century
Fulfilling our potential is core to being human. It has been a constant for centuries and across our existence. It is what has allowed us to thrive as a race, curiously seeking out opportunities, learning more and more, continuing to push boundaries in our societies and our world.
Today, for you, fulfilling your potential is about possibility and growth: exploring your opportunities and place in the world, what makes you uniquely you, how you can soar and shine with your strengths and embrace your weaknesses. It’s about defining your purpose or your dream and living in pursuit of it, whatever that may be: being the best friend and relation you can to those in your life, giving back to your local community, breaking a record, starting a successful business, becoming an Olympic athlete, or taking over as managing director of an international company. It’s about unleashing your personal possi- bility, developing yourself in order to express your individuality, and living your life to the full extent of your capacity.
In order to fulfill your potential, you need to understand your behavior and your motivations, and you need to be aware of why you are the way you are, and the impact that has on other people. You not only need to “define you,” but to define the path you want to take through life, to understand your purpose, and to feel confident in pushing the boundaries. At the same time, you need to be willing to accept setbacks and learn from them. You need to know how to recognize your tipping points, both psychological and physiological, and to be aware how best to respond in order to keep going. You need to understand the massive organ that is your brain, and learn to respect it in order for it to function optimally. To really fulfill your potential, you need to recognize that occasionally pausing, taking a breath, and stepping back from the fast-paced world is not a “nice to have,” but a “have to have.” Finally, you need to understand your environment, to be curious and open to what’s going on around you and tuned into the network in which you exist. All of this will allow you to join the dots on who you are, to create the narrative of your story, memories, and values that make up your identity now. You are valuable as you are, but with an understanding of what your potential is and how you want to fulfill it you will be able to release more of yourself and ultimately will feel a greater sense of accomplishment and be more complete as a person.
About the Author:
Fiona Murden is a Chartered Psychologist, Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, best-selling author and stimulating public speaker who has spent the past eighteen years working with leaders of multi-national companies. She is also founder and MD of Aroka Ltd which she has run globally for the past 11 years. Aroka profiles senior leaders in the UK, USA, Europe and Asia Pacific to assess their fit, strengths and the risks in relation to the role that they are being hired for. Her speaking commitments take her into boardrooms as diverse as the Institute of Directors, the Cabinet Office, the Royal College of Surgeons, Lloyd’s of London, The City Women’s Network and Nomura.
Fiona’s book, Defining You was published worldwide in 2018. Defining You opens a window into the process of psychological profiling in business and presents a clear path to improving your effectiveness with immediate actions and tangible tips.
How are false ads and fake profiles impacting the world’s most popular social platform in our volatile political climate?
Are you a Facebook user?
If you are, then you can count yourself amongst a global community that includes roughly 2.2 billion other monthly active users.
That’s pretty wild to think about especially when considering that is active users per month.
However, an even more mind-boggling number is the amount of fake accounts the social media giant deleted in the first quarter of 2018: 583 million.
Yep, more than half a billion Facebook accounts, all fake, all deleted. In the just the first quarter of this year.
To put that number in perspective, consider the top six social networking apps in the US total over 577 million active monthly users. That includes the US users of Facebook, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Pinterest, and Snapchat. Combined.
Some reports are showing that as recently as September, Facebook’s deletion number had topped the 1 billion mark, but it’s unclear precisely what that estimate truly entails.
Regardless, it would appear that the powers that be at Facebook are doing a whole lot of deleting, and very little Facebooking.
So what’s going on? What are fake Facebook accounts and why are there so many of them?
And, what, if anything can we do about them?
What is a Fake Facebook Account?
Back in the good old days, which is basically five years ago, a fake account on Facebook usually meant someone was looking to steal your identity or information. Or someone wanting to cause harm to your reputation or the reputation of someone you know.
While the con-artists and generally unpleasant people still exist, fake Facebook accounts have taken on a far more nefarious aim over the past two years.
Prior to the 2016 election, fake accounts, ads, and posts began populating Facebook in unprecedented numbers. The majority of accounts have been tied back to coordinated sources in Russia in an effort to create division among voters and steer public opinion.
Though all social platforms were targets in the 2016 presidential campaign, Facebook faced the brunt of the efforts to increase the tensions in an already volatile election cycle.
Many of the accounts took aim at already hot-button topics such as gun control, but the majority were merely created to propagate disinformation prior to the election.
Other false accounts, however, move beyond the contentious arena of politics. Fake Facebook accounts often pop up in droves after significant events such as school shootings, spewing misinformation and sowing seeds of discontent when unity should be the prevailing mood.
In one such instance, a picture of Emma Gonzalez, a survivor of the Parkland, FL shooting, that originally showed her tearing a shooting range target in half, was altered to show her instead ripping up the constitution.
The most recent example of the continued use of false accounts came at the end of July when Facebook uncovered an effort focused on upending the midterm elections.
During the latter part of the summer, Facebook noted it had removed a number of accounts linked to both Russian and Iranian sources for posing “inauthentic behavior” or proved “misleading.”
Leading into the 2018 midterms, the activity once again spiked, with Facebook working to regain control before election day on November 6.
Facebook axed 32 fake accounts, and though they did not immediately link them to the Russian IRA, they did note that the characteristics were similar to the Russian accounts from 2016.
Facebook is not alone in this, however.
YouTube, the popular social video platform, boasts an upload rate of 400 hours of video each minute. Even with a bustling team of moderators nixing rogue accounts, there is an incredible volume of content to sort through.
Twitter recently suspended over 275 accounts that reflected links back to Iran. However, their problems stem from the fact many user accounts are anonymous. Nonetheless, they are getting rid of close to 1 million accounts per day, with approximately 70 million suspended in May and June alone.
To their credit, Twitter is taking action at the potential risk of negating some of their growth.
No doubt the challenges faced by Twitter and YouTube are steep, but Facebook remains the primary focus of hackers, trolls, and those that hope to stop both. It’s massive base of legitimate users, and its extensive global reach practically ensures this.
Were You a Target of the Fake Facebook Campaigns?
In a word, yes.
If you possessed a US-based Facebook account, there is little doubt you and the other 170 million users in the country at some point fell victim to the false Russian ads and accounts that permeated Facebook.
Numerous reports show that between 2015 and 2017, that Russia’s Internet Research Agency doled out over $100,000 to purchase Facebook ads.
The ads themselves targeted all manner of individuals that showed interest in a number of topics. The most popular included independence, motherhood, patriotism, racial equality, and social justice.
Beyond the ads, which totaled more than 3,500 over the course of the two-year span, the fake Russian accounts also tallied well above 80,000 organic posts on Facebook and more 120,000 on Instagram. When the final impact was measured, its estimated that almost 150 million Americans saw some level of Russian disinformation through those two platforms alone.
What was the Point?
Ultimately, the goal was to poke and prod an already sharply divided electorate and create even deeper divisions.
And it worked.
While plenty of the ads and accounts targeted political topics or candidates, most did not. One prime example includes competing ads – one for a pro-Beyonce rally and one for an anti-Beyonce rally – at the same place, date, and time. The apparent goal being citizens shown putting their difference on display.
A lot of the time, the ads were nonsensical or riddled with errors so extensive it would be clear a non-native English speaker cobbled it together. Yet, the bait worked time and again thanks in large part to the overall tone of the ads appealing directly to people’s emotions, with little concern to which side those emotions fell on.
What is Being Done to Stop Them?
As evidenced by the account deletions earlier in 2018, Facebook is working overtime put out the fire of false accounts.
In May, Facebook instituted new parameters to combat the problem. The extensive list of checks and balances include quite a few requirements meant to clearly identify political ads as such and only through advertisers who have been authorized to post them.
In addition, Facebook will archive all political ads (or any other advertisement that Facebook considers of national importance) for up to seven years. Page admins and those who oversee ad accounts will have to provide Facebook a copy of their ID to prove a valid mailing address (with a letter and access code sent to the admin for use on their account).
In one last step, the disclosure of who paid for the ad will also be necessary.
More than just guidelines though, Facebook is also gearing up its physical review process.
It announced plans to increase the number of individuals who oversee and moderate the platform’s content to over 20,000 by the end of 2018. This effectively doubles the amount they had at the end of 2017.
On top of those efforts, the social platform continues to delete fake accounts as soon as they go active with millions blocked every day.
Although many of these safeguards are in place for the 2018 midterms, the real test comes in two years during the next presidential election. By that time, hackers and trolls would have enough time to circumvent any safeguards, assuming Facebook makes no further changes.
Even with the security improvements in place, there are no absolute guarantees. Facebook’s leader, Mark Zuckerberg, agrees, noting in a Facebook post back in April that they would be unable to put an end to “all people trying to game the system.”
As the problems with fake Facebook accounts continue to persist, it’s up to individual users to be diligent and avoid falling victim to the false accounts. Admittedly, it’s not always easy.
It also shows that we remain susceptible to the issues that plagued the 2016 elections and if no significant changes actually do occur, we will be in for a repeat in 2020.
Alex Stamos, Facebook’s former Chief Security Officer, agrees. He states, “If there’s no foreign interference during the midterms, it’s not because we did a great job. It’s because our adversaries decided to show a little forbearance, which is unfortunate. In most cases, throwing an election one way or another is going to be very difficult for a foreign adversary, but throwing any election into chaos is totally doable right now. That’s where we haven’t moved forwards.”
Of course, even without the rampant use of fake accounts and bad actors, Facebook has long been a platform used for political discourse. However, for any users that want to steer clear of the false accounts, it may require keeping a wide berth from any and all politically motivated content.
While that indeed may be challenging for some in today’s highly charged atmosphere, for others it may prove a welcome reprieve from the vitriol.
My question was, “How do they do it?” and, even more precisely, “Where do they get their motivation?”
“It sounds like you’re asking me why I want to be healthy,” he said, brow furrowing. “I don’t quite—understand.” Steve had arrived at a southern New Jersey research facility about an hour before. He passed a variety of screening inquiries confirming that he leads a healthy lifestyle and agreed to answer questions about his health behaviors. Eight other 50+men of broad life experiences joined him.
As an initial step in my research, I assembled two identical groups of men, one in New Jersey, and one in San Francisco. Both groups exhibited positive health behaviors as defined by Dr. David Nash, Dean of the School of Population Health of the Thomas Jefferson University, as a reasonable BMI (body mass index), regular exercise, and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, abstinence from smoking, and the use of a seat belt. Their age and these criteria were the basis for their selection.
While many health services occur in the confines of hospitals and medical offices, health care providers have long understood that successful health outcomes mold more significantly in the home, gym, and grocery store. Steve and the other study participants shared what inspired them to live their healthy lifestyles. On the surface, Steve and his colleagues seemed to connect what they value most in life, their spouses, children, grandchildren, vocations, and hobbies, to the importance of healthy practices. Several explained how they integrated these valued relationships into their diet and exercise routines to create a mutually supportive lifestyle that helps sustain their health.
Besides screening questions for a nationwide survey of men like themselves, I wanted to uncover their secret sauce. I wanted to know how they think about their life and what’s behind their healthy lifestyle. Why is it that they can accomplish what so many men their age can’t? Moreover, once gaining these insights, how could I create a model for other 50+ men (or all men, for that matter) to follow? While 50+ men in general are the least healthy group in the nation, these men proved that a healthy lifestyle at 50+ was possible (CDC, 2003). My question was, “How do they do it?” and, even more precisely, “Where do they get their motivation?” My search for these answers included the nationwide survey that I was screening with Steve and his colleagues, as well as personal interviews.
A Wake-up Call for 50+ Men
Remarkable, isn’t it? By far, we spend more money on health care than any other country in the world, and yet the general health of Americans ranks well below most leading industrialized nations (CDC, 2003). To think that despite all this investment in science, technology, pharmacology, and medical education that what’s most important, what makes the biggest difference is our ability to live healthily. Yet, as a society, we struggle with high rates of obesity and chronic illnesses, both highly influenced by lifestyle.
This is not to say that Americans are unaware of the problem. God knows the bookstores contain many diet and exercise books, gyms of all types dot the country, and an endless stream of infomercials promote exercise equipment, while health care providers promote disease prevention and offer instruction on healthy behavior.
Health Behaviors Need Not Be Costly
I am lucky to have a career that has enabled me to provide for my family and given me access to modest resources, such as a gym membership. For that, I am grateful. However, it is important to note that neither the social nor the behavioral dimensions of a healthy lifestyle necessarily represent a costly proposition. A little creativity can go a long way.
Long before I became a gym rat, I was running the streets and sidewalks, doing push-ups in my basement, and taking advantage of public recreational resources to meet my exercise needs. As for diet, there is significant economy in healthy foods, when compared to the demons of fast food. While access to healthy food can sometimes be an obstacle, particularly in some urban areas, more and more farmers’ markets are popping-up, providing reasonable access to fruits, vegetables, and healthy food products.
Granted, nothing is easy in life and this includes your health behaviors. My point is to acknowledge that men bring varied levels of resources to bear on their goal of lifestyle change. Whatever your situation, my experience is that there are opportunities to meet your needs, it requires some innovative thinking, but is certainly within the reach of every man who aspires to live healthily.
CRACK THE CODE: 10 Proven Secrets that Motivate Healthy Behavior and Inspire Fulfillment in Men Over 50 by Louis Bezich Crack The Code presents an unconventional, motivation-based approach to health for men 50 and over. Ten strategies for creating and maintaining inspiration for a healthy lifestyle are advanced from a platform of survey research, interviews and the author’s personal experiences. Primary audiences for the book are men over 50 and the people that love them; their wives, partners, children and grandchildren. Additional audiences include health care providers, insurers, policy makers, men of all ages who want to find motivation for healthy behavior and anyone who has struggled with their health.
Asserting that without motivation no diet, exercise program, technology or other strategy will produce sustained results, Crack The Code describes how healthy-living men, one of the most health-challenged segments of the American population, exhibit a strong cognitive association between their life’s priorities and their behaviors; a catalytic awareness in which men often integrate their valued relationships into their health behaviors (they take walks with their wife). What the author terms Male Cognitive Behavioral Alignment.